Eggplant is an ingredient I rarely cook with. Since it's currently in season, I'm trying to use it more. I'm starting with this classic Italian preparation, known by some as pasta a la Norma. The sauce is made from fresh tomatoes and shallow-fried eggplant. It's seasoned with basil leaves and lots of cheese. I plan on serving mixed greens on the side and a full-bodied, unoaked Chardonnay. Want to see the recipe I'm using? It's vegetarian-friendly and can be found right here.
3 medium eggplants (round violet ones if possible)
1 lb. very ripe tomatoes (add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste if not red enough)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
12 oz. spaghetti or spaghettini
3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
3-4 tablespoons freshly grated ricotta salata, aged pecorino or Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
- Cut the eggplants into small dice and put in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and put the colander on a plate. Set aside to drain for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, dip the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds, then drop into cold water. Slip off the skins, cut in half, and squeeze out and discard the seeds. Chop the flesh coarsely.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes until golden, then add the tomatoes. Cook for about 15 minutes, until tomatoes start to disintegrate.
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, add in spaghetti, and cook according to the package instructions, about 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, rinse the eggplants, drain, and pat dry. Heat 1-inch vegetable oil in a separate skillet, add cubes of eggplant and shallow fry until deep golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Stir into the tomato sauce.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 2 tablespoons of cooking water in the pan and returning the pasta to the hot pan. Stir in the sauce, basil, and grated cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately with more cheese on the side.
- Pasta, Main Dishes